etrier on lips

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etrier on lips

Postby rebelfirefighter » May 1, 2010 6:52 am

Theres no graceful way of crossing a thin or nasty lip. I've read here and other places about using an etrier while ascending to help get up and over the lip. My question is can you use one to help you get over the lip to rappel? I'm thinking you could use it to get down a few feet, get your rope in place then off you go. Is this something yall have tried? I wanted to get a few opinions before I tried it. Thanks
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby ek » May 1, 2010 9:35 am

This doesn't answer your question...but it's relevant to it.

I was out once and we had a lip once that was hard to cross on ascent and reasonably easy to cross on descent. We had an etrier in place to assist with the ascent. We were using micro-racks, and one person's hyperbar (not the braking pin, but the hyperbar itself, which is extended beyond the U-frame) got caught on the etrier. She was right near the top...but she hung there, unable to move, and unable to lock off her rack in the usual way (since she could not put the rope over the hyperbar). This problem wasn't too difficult to fix--we were able to help her out of it without much trouble, from the top. But still, it's something to think about. If you actually have your descender attached to the rope, sometimes it's best to minimize any additional stuff that could get in the way.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby chh » May 1, 2010 9:48 am

Um, all an aider is is a ladder. Walk down the ladder using your rappel device or even your qas. Do a changeover at the bottom of the ladder past the lip if you've used an ascending device. Am I missing something?
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby ek » May 1, 2010 9:52 am

chh wrote:Am I missing something?

Maybe. You cannot easily walk down it with your descender attached to the rope and protecting you, because it is a floppy ladder. It would be incredibly awkward, and most likely impossible for most folks, to walk down an etrier with one hand on the rope below. Most people have both hands grabbing the etrier while climbing one.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby ian mckenzie » May 1, 2010 11:54 am

Descending is the easy part, shouldn't need any aids. Methinks the etrier is an unnecessary and distracting addition to an already awkward situation. Just try using your arms and knees to help get past the lip. Maybe pad the lip with an empty tackle bag, that will help with getting past it and will help protect your rope too.

Of course, the best solution is to rig a deflection (deviation) to pull the rope off the lip, if the situation permits.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby chh » May 1, 2010 9:08 pm

I agree with Ian. It shouldn't really be necessary in any case. But, downclimbing an aider isn't really all that hard. Especially the metolius or yates style "ladders". The BD or others, even knotted versions are a little more tricky as they don't stay open as well. You can duct tape something a little more rigid in the steps of "normal" or knotted aiders, or if you want to get real fancy, slide sections of tubing into the 1" knotted aiders as you're tying them up. Helps them stay open just like a footloop. You can even lockstitch the webbing to keep the tubing from creeping around out of the bottom of the step. Much easier to slide your feet in and out that way.
But, like I said, I agree with Ian. Shouldn't really be necessary at all. Aiders are for, well, aiding, and for tricky spots in free climbs where a little more than a handline might be helpful for a move or two. I can just see someone getting their feet caught up in that business on the way over a lip and getting all tangled up if they're not familiar with using etriers. And if you have to use an aider to get over a thin lip on the way down you're probably only going to make more trouble for yourself. So, I guess I agree with you, ek. It would be akward to do on rappel. Possible, buy why bother? I've downclimbed my tied aiders on solo aid whilst tending my device, but you usually have the wall to help you here with your feet so one handed isn't that much of a problem unless it's a really dicey piece. But I'm mostly a C1 soloist, so I don't fool with that much.
In fact I'm trying to envision a situation where an aider would be helpfull at a really thin lip on the way down. Maybe with a really heavy pack and a long rack? Or if you get a headache when you turn upside down?
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby NZcaver » May 2, 2010 4:49 pm

ian mckenzie wrote:Descending is the easy part, shouldn't need any aids. Methinks the etrier is an unnecessary and distracting addition to an already awkward situation. Just try using your arms and knees to help get past the lip. Maybe pad the lip with an empty tackle bag, that will help with getting past it and will help protect your rope too.

Of course, the best solution is to rig a deflection (deviation) to pull the rope off the lip, if the situation permits.

Agreed. If possible, rigging a high angle redirect near the lip is a nice way to go. If not, another option is to use the "temporary human redirect" method (my terminology - not sure if it has a real name).

On a flat or moderately sloped surface leading to a lip, somebody can lift the rope to reduce edge problems for the person trying to descend (or climb) past the edge. Because of the angle of deflection, this takes surprisingly little effort. With the person at the edge of the drop (on rappel), clip in and position yourself 1-2 body lengths back from the edge. With gloved hands, lift the rope up to about thigh level (use your knees, not your back). The person can now begin descending over the edge either on their feet or knees, depending on the terrain and their experience/confidence level. Once they are past the point of no return, slowly lower the rope to ground and release your hands. This allows the person's descender to slide past the (padded) edge. Be sure to keep an eye on the position of their descender and hands while lowering the rope.

The same can be done with a climber approaching the edge. When the climber gets to the infamous "jam the descender into the rock and try to scramble for foot/knee traction to get over" point, simply lift the rope to help them over. Easy!

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Re: etrier on lips

Postby wyandottecaver » May 2, 2010 5:29 pm

I hate bad edges myself. my arm strength to body mass ratio is very low :big grin: I think the best solution is microblasting a reasonable access point.....short of that, I have to agree that the more crap you have hanging in the vicinity of a rappel the more likely something bad is gonna happen.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby graveleye » May 3, 2010 10:19 am

I was so concerned about a very nasty lip in a certain Alabama pit that I went and bought myself an etrier.
I forgot to rig it on the way down, of course, and never got to use it. I just muscled myself up and over it.

I still have the etrier, but after successfully managing this particular lip, I wonder if I will ever need to use it.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby LukeM » May 3, 2010 1:26 pm

NZcaver wrote:On a flat or moderately sloped surface leading to a lip, somebody can lift the rope to reduce edge problems for the person trying to descend (or climb) past the edge. Because of the angle of deflection, this takes surprisingly little effort. With the person at the edge of the drop (on rappel), clip in and position yourself 1-2 body lengths back from the edge. With gloved hands, lift the rope up to about thigh level (use your knees, not your back). The person can now begin descending over the edge either on their feet or knees, depending on the terrain and their experience/confidence level. Once they are past the point of no return, slowly lower the rope to ground and release your hands. This allows the person's descender to slide past the (padded) edge. Be sure to keep an eye on the position of their descender and hands while lowering the rope.

The same can be done with a climber approaching the edge. When the climber gets to the infamous "jam the descender into the rock and try to scramble for foot/knee traction to get over" point, simply lift the rope to help them over. Easy!


This doesn't really help with the first one up/last one down situation. I'd hate to be that person and be unable to cross a lip without someone above to assist. There are, of course, some pretty simple methods for getting out of those kind of jams, so putting the most experienced/able person in that situation is a good idea. As for etriers, I've had them on a few lips I've crossed and I'd say about half the time I was very happy it was there. It can definitely be annoying and get in the way. The best situation to have one in is an very thin and undercut lip where your ascender is jammed on the rock. Unlike the wall that's recessed below the lip, an etrier gives you something to push on at several different points, allowing you to push yourself backward like you would normally do to get your upper ascender over the lip.

Like others have said though, if the lip is this bad you should seriously consider whether the rope could be rigged in a better way.

Getting back to the OP's question... In response to that I would ask what you meant by 'get your rope in place'. As someone suggested, using a rapell device and an etrier at the same time would be difficult, so are you asking about using an etrier without rope protection (or with a belay) to get past the lip, then starting the rappel? Without belay this would be very dangerous and with belay it would be in my opinion present more complications than necessary, and possibly still present some unnecessary danger. I can see using an etrier once you're at the point of getting your descender stuck on the lip. In this case, like in the above situation, you could push yourself backward using the etrier and then let your rappel device slide lower, letting your upper body rotate downward. Just don't get stuck upside down with your foot stuck in a loop. :tonguecheek: NZCaver's method of lifting the rope upward for the person on rappel would also be a good method of dealing with it if you are confident the last one down could negotiate the lip without aid.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby chh » May 3, 2010 4:40 pm

I still think if you are set on using an etrier on a lip, the better option is to downclimb with your ascender(s) past the lip and changeover to rappel after the lip instead of trying it with your rappel device. A belay isn't a bad option at all in my opinion, it's probably faster than dowclimbing the rope, but it does have two cons that I can see. First, there is no one else to double check your device, but you would have this problem with changing over below the lip as well. Second, it isn't possible for the last person, just like the human tripod option.
People used to climb ladders all the time in caves, and still do sometimes. Granted cable ladders are a good deal easier to use than an etrier, but like I said earlier, the "ladder" style aiders are really a step up from the other aiders in a lot of ways. Fish makes one with a spreader bar above the top step which holds things especially straight. If you were negociating a lip on a cable ladder how would you approach it? I would get a belay and be done with it.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby tncaver » May 3, 2010 5:35 pm

chh wrote:Um, all an aider is is a ladder. Walk down the ladder using your rappel device or even your qas. Do a changeover at the bottom of the ladder past the lip if you've used an ascending device. Am I missing something?


Maybe getting a ladder to the lip isn't feasable.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby chh » May 3, 2010 9:03 pm

tncaver wrote:
chh wrote:Um, all an aider is is a ladder. Walk down the ladder using your rappel device or even your qas. Do a changeover at the bottom of the ladder past the lip if you've used an ascending device. Am I missing something?


Maybe getting a ladder to the lip isn't feasable.


I was speaking more broadly. I didn't mean actually a ladder of the aluminum or wooden variety. I meant more the physical similarities climbing anything with vertical steps shares. I have the tendancy to call one piece of equipment by a lot of different names.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby Dan Henry » May 3, 2010 11:15 pm

Sort of along the same lines, I have crossed some really nasty lips going down by using the footloop of the upper frog ascender as a step below the lip to get a bit of slack in the mainline to get the descender safely past the lip. Frog and Texas systems both utilize such a footloop, so you don't really need an etrier. This avoids making a big dynamic move, like the "butt-slam" I've seen on several occasions, where you get right to the edge of a bad lip, then just drop past the worst of it and catch youself below, which always seemed a bit dangerous to me. As far as all the advice about rigging high, modifying the lip with micro blasting, etc. those are good suggestions, but we've all been at a drop that is rigged low and has a thin, undercut lip, that there's just no other good way to do.
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Re: etrier on lips

Postby LukeM » May 4, 2010 10:18 am

Dan Henry wrote:Sort of along the same lines, I have crossed some really nasty lips going down by using the footloop of the upper frog ascender as a step below the lip to get a bit of slack in the mainline to get the descender safely past the lip. Frog and Texas systems both utilize such a footloop, so you don't really need an etrier.


Dan, could you explain in a little more detail? Are you attaching the ascender just above the descender when you do this?
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